The Skype image of your smiling face is pixelated by the poor WiFi connection between Leon and Chicago. It is juxtaposed with the prayer card image of Blessed Stanley Rother taped inside my notebook. An artist’s rendering of the Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala in 1981: I was an infant and you were in the heady days of el Triunfo de la Revolucion Sandinista, the revolution which has soured into a nightmarish reincarnation for Somoza’s dictatorship.
My eyes move from your image to his. Blessed Stanley’s simple alb and stole, your white guayabera; Blessed Stanley’s dark beard, your clean shaven face; Blessed Stanley’s voice now silenced, yours warm and frank as you speak in Spanglish of the barricades built of adoquinas, the encapuchados terrorizing Managua’s neighborhoods with the AK-47s they call akas, the now-empty house where I used to live in the barrio whose residents have fled to Costa Rica like so many others.
Will your image – dear padre whose name I don’t write here for the sake of your and your confreres’ safety – one day become an icon?
Will we one day intone presente as we life a white wooden cross emblazoned with your name?
Will your acompanamiento lead you to the Golgotha of a Central American torture chamber shared with so many desaparecidos?
Hear my confession: I want you in the green safety of ordinary time, not the passion red of Good Friday.
Though I have impressed upon fresh-faced undergraduates the gravity of King’s final preaching about the view from the mountaintop,
Though I have screened Raul Julia as Archbishop Romero for many a suburban parish small group,
Though I have gathered in cathedrals to light candles for Ita, Maura, Dorothy, Jean,
Though I have knelt in prayer in San Salvador’s UCA to reverence the slain Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter.
I do not want your name added to this martyr’s litany. I confess I want you as a centenarian priest who dies in his sleep, not gunned down by paramilitares with dark impunity.
Dios de los pobres, Dios de los oprimidos, take my memory, my understanding, my entire will.
Convert me to bear faithfully the falling of a beloved grain of wheat.